Sunday, November 11, 2012

#113: The Byrds - Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)

They're the poster child for what I think of when I think of the sixties. I imagine a band wearing colored sunglasses indoors with long hair, performing on a television show with peace signs and flowers everywhere. Their brown corduroy sweaters and orange tight pants for all to see as they perform their songs that all sound alike. Unfortunately, I don't mean this in an endearing way. I've listened to 33 albums from the 60's so far and I've enjoyed the majority of them - my preconceived notions of what the 60's were proved to be very wrong (I expected more bands similar to The Byrds). While these sort of bands were definitely prevalent, there was plenty of good music going on as well.

Mr. Tambourine Man
Maybe I judge song writing incorrectly. I really enjoyed this track by Dylan but I just can't stand it when the Byrds do it. I can only imagine that every Byrd band meeting starts the same way. "Hey, let's do a new song - what should we start with?" "Let's do the harmonies, make it all blend together so we don't really have a focal point and then we'll just do whatever for the rest - it doesn't really matter."

You Won't Have to Cry
This is the closest they get to the Beatles throughout the album and even then - they're a long ways off. The harmonies throughout are good, but I'm getting tired of listening to these "amazing" albums where they only do one thing well. I'm not saying that I do anything well - but I get it. You can do harmonies well. Let's try to use it a little less, it's only amazing if I don't constantly have it in my ear. Musically this is one of the best tracks on the album. The record tends to put musicality in the back seat throughout to make room for the harmonies, but this song finds a (merciful) balance.

It's No Use
It's the only song on the album that doesn't sound exactly like the rest of them. The vocal arrangement is slightly different in this recording, it allows a lead vocal to emerge and be the focus while the other harmonies are completely supplemental. Also, the music is actually present and has it's own identity in this song - it rocks a bit and even has a three second blistering guitar solo. If this was what the rest of the record sounded like, I would have definitely enjoyed it.

All in all, it's hard to believe that I was dreading listening to this album and yet, it was still a disappointment. If you've ever heard 'Mr. Tambourine Man' or 'Turn, Turn, Turn' and you've wondered if they have any other good songs - stop while you're behind. I realize that there's a generation that loves the Byrds and they absolutely should. The Byrds represent a decade of music and a style that may be viewed as the good ol' days. However, I personally lack any nostalgia and the music just didn't cut it. Through many publications I saw comparisons to the Beatles and all I can say is. The Byrds are the Beatles-lite. Wait - that's not even fair: They're the lite version of what ever the Beatles' lite's lite version is.

Tomorrow's album: Guster's Keep it Together.

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